A frustrated Benjamin Read looked on as Ashanti Jackson gathered and leapt head and shoulders above Emerson’s blockers for the last of his 14 kills.
The play was a fitting end to the quarterfinal matchup in the GNAC men’s volleyball playoffs, played Tuesday night at the Jean Yawkey Center. Jackson, a junior outside hitter for the third-seeded Emmanuel Saints (17-11) led a barrage of superior jumping, passing, and discipline that resulted in a 3 – 0 match sweep over the sixth seeded Lions (11-15).
Emerson remained competitive throughout but failed to execute down the stretch of all three sets, falling 25 – 15, 25 – 18 and 25 – 18, respectively. They played catch-up from the start, surrendering an early 3 – 0 lead to begin the first— their only lead a modest 2 – 1 advantage coming in the middle set.
“[Emmanuel] is just a really good team. They’re big, they’re athletic and they do a lot of things really well,” said Read, the team’s head coach, who saw his third season in charge of the program come to an end Tuesday. “They just have us outclassed a little by height.”
The Saints’ athletic and height advantage was evident from start to finish, despite playing without 6-foot-9 junior middle hitter Wyatt Cooper. Each time the Lions strung together consecutive points, Emmanuel was able to extinguish any momentum through a dominant display at the net.
Conversely, when the Lions faltered, the Saints took advantage, stringing together runs of six and seven consecutive points in the second and third game respectively, both at crucial points in the match.
“They were able to take us out of our system really well,” said sophomore outside hitter Jackson Wiley. “They played a smart game and forced us to play from behind.”
The Lions were paced by sophomore setter Brendan McGonigle, who recorded 24 assists. Wiley led all Emerson hitters with 11 kills, but the Lions swung an inefficient .048 on the day, compared to Emmanuel’s .429.
Emerson found themselves in a similar position in last year’s GNAC playoffs, matching up against the Wentworth Leopards in a six versus three matchup. But while the Lions climbed out of a 2 – 0 hole last year against the Leopards for a 3 – 2 comeback win—the first postseason victory — Emerson was unable to overcome a 2 – 0 deficit this year, bringing its season to a close.
Despite the loss, Read remained positive about the state of the team’s future.
“We are graduating Tom Carroll, the only senior on the team,” said Read, who said he couldn’t comment on committed incoming players for next year. “But we are returning all of our starters, which is really good moving forward and we have a lot of guys already committed.”
Connor Burton, assistant sports editor of the Beacon and member of the men’s volleyball team, did not edit this story.